Career Advice From The Women Of Accordion & Maestro
Honoring International Women's Day 2021
International Women’s Day hits a bit differently this year.
In the wake of a pandemic that has had regressive effects on gender equality and women in the workforce, we—the women of Accordion and Maestro—see it as our duty to stand up, speak out, and help drive change. And, driving change starts by driving a meaningful dialogue…
Below you’ll hear from women across our organization who have broken barriers (and continue to break barriers) in a male-dominated industry. Our hope is that women and men alike will learn from our stories – and that together, we’ll advance towards a new era of equality.
What barriers did you face at the start of your career, and how did you overcome them?
When I started my career three decades ago, I was warned that I was entering a ‘man’s world’ and that the way I dealt with issues, interacted with people, and made decisions would differ from my male colleagues’ approach. I quickly learned that these differences set me apart – and as I became one of the only women to run a department and attend executive meetings, I channeled my differences as strengths. Today I’d encourage every woman to stay true to herself and make no apologies for who she is. No one should have to shed their core values to succeed.
Early on in my career, I was my own harshest critic. I was often hesitant to speak up because I was afraid that I didn't have as much experience compared to others at the table. I quickly realized that different perspectives are equally, if not more, valuable, and I was brought to the table for a reason – I worked hard and earned my seat at the table, I just had to get out of my own way.
This might be more of a bias than a barrier, but women weren't allowed to wear pantsuits at my first office. That is, until two women started wearing pantsuits with such finesse—while wowing with their competence in the work itself—that they altered the status quo. It’s a small thing, but every small thing is a big step toward the greater goal of gender equality.
What advice would you give to a young woman embarking on her career?
It’s easy to underestimate yourself; don’t let it happen. If you’ve gained a spot at a firm, a seat at the table, or an invitation to a coveted meeting, you’ve earned that spot for a reason – make sure you show up with your full self. Speak up and share what you know. Present with confidence and can-do positivity. Make the ask of others to help you progress. If you consistently demonstrate the right knowledge and attitude in your interactions, even the most difficult people will want to support your success.
Encouraging the success of other women will heighten your intellect and prove to be an invaluable achievement. Strengthen your female professional support network—peers, mentors, and mentees—by celebrating accomplishments, navigating challenges, and pursuing growth and development opportunities together.
You’ll constantly face individuals who look down on you or treat you as if you shouldn’t have a seat at the table. Always stay determined and focused, find a good mentor, and keep the positive individuals in your corner. Most importantly: get your chair and tell them to make room, because you have a voice at that table and it’s worth hearing.
Take up space. Be confident. You deserve to be here.
They say knowledge is power, but self-education is a superpower. You’ll never regret a moment spent researching or taking the initiative to learn something new; it’s the best way to invest in your success, and ultimately, the success of those around you.
Don’t be afraid to take risks, as that is how we will continue to make positive changes and an impact. Be intentionally inclusive, optimistic, and always hold yourself accountable.
Lean into your strengths and don’t underestimate the impact you can have on an organization. Own your craft with confidence and you will build credibility in your area of expertise.
How can we work together to correct COVID-19’s regressive effects on gender equality?
Since the pandemic started and working from home became the new reality, my colleagues and clients alike have gotten to know my children. They’ve seen them and they’ve heard them...sometimes loudly. I personally have embraced being unabashedly okay with folks getting a glimpse into the chaos; it also means they glimpse the sweet, loving moments. And both are great – because they're the moments that make us all human. As a female executive in a male-dominated industry, I can try to hide this part of my life (which, let’s be honest, is impossible when there’s an actual Zoom window into our home every day), or I can be an example to other women – to let them see that “having it all” sometimes means stepping away for a few hours in the middle of the day to take care of my family, or taking a client call while cooking dinner. For me, that’s the first step to correcting gender inequality. Here at Accordion, our CEO, who’s also a dad to young children, regularly talks about work/life integration. If we can all be more comfortable opening these windows, letting our personal lives mix with our professional lives (especially as we navigate history in the making) that’ll help us move a few steps forward.
Change can only come with intention. Individually, we have to do our part – create a female professional network, refer your talented female friend for that job, call out when things aren’t fair, etc. Organizations also need to be intentional by assessing diversity and ensuring everyone is truly set up to succeed.
As women we need to actively voice that it is okay to have a career, choose a career, and embrace being a woman in business. We need to learn it is okay to ask for help, especially if that help is in our personal life so we can focus on our careers. We need to speak up for and support each other, but we also need to be honest with each other so we can continue to grow and put our best foot forward.
As a working mother, how have you navigated the unprecedented challenges of the last year? Any tips?
Being a working mother (particularly in a dual working household) is challenging in non-pandemic times. Add health concerns, remote schooling, and absence of childcare and it can feel unbearable. While I likely have more tips on what NOT to do, the biggest lesson I learned was to let go of the idea of ‘perfection.’ There is no perfect employee, mom, partner, friend, etc. Things are likely messier (both literally and figuratively) but we have to be kind to ourselves and to others who are grappling with similar or different, but equally challenging, issues. So embrace the imperfection but when it’s good or when there’s a win, take the space to celebrate it.
My daughter was 9 months old when our daycare shut down indefinitely due to COVID-19. For the following 6 months, my husband and I were both working full-time at home while simultaneously taking care of her. To navigate this unprecedented challenge, my husband and I had to coordinate every aspect of our work schedules. Often, we would have overlapping zoom calls and work deadlines. In these situations, we would have to come to an agreement over who would be taking care of our daughter during calls. Over time, my colleagues got used to seeing me surrounded by toys and muting in the middle of sentences to save everyone’s eardrums from her shrieks. At first, I was embarrassed, but I sought solace through conversations with my family and friends, learning that I was not alone, and this was the new reality for so many working parents. By being honest about my reality, my team members were patient and even reached out to help. My tip to others is simple honesty: you have to be honest with yourself, your family, your colleagues and your friends. By doing so, you can often find the support and flexibility that is necessary to get through challenging experiences in unexpected places.
At Accordion, we strive to foster “a better way to work in finance” – what does this mean to you (in the context of gender equality)?
I’ve had the unique opportunity to watch this firm grow over the last 8 years, across all service lines and business operations, and I am humbled by the way our team embodies work/life integration for women and men alike. We are a “family first” firm, and our high gender diversity has afforded us with a great consideration and understanding for each other beyond just what we do together professionally. I appreciate this aspect of our firm every day – it’s a piece of our culture that you can’t easily replicate elsewhere.